Things I Have Learned

Stephan Sagmeister is an instillation artist and while he isn’t my favorite, I did have the pleasure of hearing him speak when I was in college and own a signed copy of his book “Things I Have Learned” about what he has learned about life by being an artist.  We all know that life is a learn-as-you-go thing so I appreciate his wanting to share what he’s learned from a portion of his journey.

So here’s my “Things I have learned” from a little over a month of very (very) strict budgeting.

1. Why yes, I can live without!  I can live without going out to eat.  I can live without going to Target.  I can live without seeing a movie in the theatre for a while.  I can live without brand new winter boots.  I can live without it all.

2. I can learn to say no – Whitney issue numero uno!  While I am learning to say no to volunteer positions and taking on responsibilities, my most notable feat at the moment is learning to say no to purchases.  I was in the mall the other day waiting on a gift to be ready and while walking around, I saw that Gymboree was having a sale.  I have friends that are pregnant and am always stocking up for gifts and for “one day” so I went in and not only were they having a sale, but clearance onesies and outfits were marked down to $1 – $2!  Since I love a good sale (and that was a GOOD sale!), without thinking, I filled my arms with as many cute little baby things as I could hold and enjoyed 45 minutes of matching shorts to tops and shoes for future little babies.  And as I turned to go towards the cash register, I felt so guilty that I almost started crying.  We aren’t expecting a baby, our friends don’t need more clothes, I don’t need to stock up and there will certainly be more sales.  So I put the whole armful back and walked out of the store with nothing.  Cue the hallelujah chorus!  This never would have happened before.

3. I can learn to live without THE perfect thing right now.  I’m a graphic designer so everything in my life has to be designed and look a certain way.  It’s just how I like things.  And my Christmas Cards are no exception.  I’ve been designing them for the last two years and this year, I had already had ours designed by August!  But when I got a quote for how much it would be to print 50+ custom cards, my heart sank because that’s just not part of our budget right now.  Then I remembered that 2 years ago, I purchased several boxes of cute Christmas cards from Sams that I never used.  I liked them ok, but they weren’t exactly my style anymore.  But “my style” doesn’t matter anymore.  The budget matters.  So this year’s Christmas cards will be slightly less “2013 Whitney” and a whole lot more economical.  Free, in fact, since I already have them.  I can learn to live with that, even if they won’t be the perfect cards.

4. We can, in fact, have fun and do nice things on a budget.  We’ve googled free RedBox codes to have a movie date for free; we used an almost-expired Hilton hotel pass to have a romantic night out for free; Aaron asked for a pass to go carting instead of money in exchange for mechanic work from his brother; and, we just came back from a cheap weekend trip thanks to employee benefits with my job.  It’s almost kind of fun coming up with ways to still do fun and interesting things on a budget!

5.  I’m more resourceful than I would have given myself credit for.  There are so many little things we can do to save money that I never would have considered before – don’t know why.  I realized that we could use our plastic grocery bags to pick up after Abby instead of using the bought doggy bags we used to use.  And, every month there are tons of free samples for dog treats online so we won’t have to buy dog treats for years!

6. This will not last forever.  Whenever I am frustrated I just think about how good it’s going to feel to be able to have no debt besides our mortgage and to be able to stay at home with kids, if I want, and to be able to save like we want.  I know I can do these things now to have all that.

I’ve love to know if you have more things you’ve learned about budgeting – every little bit helps!

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